Archiv für den Monat Oktober 2016

What mobile carriers should do next: Become banks

mobile-banking

If banking is something you do on an app, why shouldn’t your mobile carrier actually be your bank? It’s more than just an idea. Orange, Telenor, and O2 are all building their own operations.

In the UK alone, people use mobile banking apps more than 7,610 times a minute, or 4 billion times a year.

According to the “Way We Bank Now” report by the British Banking Association, they downloaded more than 13.8 million banking apps in 2015, up 25 percent from 2014.

All over the world people are switching away from branch-based banking, and even desktop Internet banking, to manage their financial lives through an app.

Why wouldn’t they? There’s no need to go anywhere. The user interface is typically better than it is on a PC. And the addition of biometrics (typically fingerprint) makes signing in so much easier and safer than passwords.

Of course, banking apps are made by banks. The carriers just provide the data packages that allow people to use use them.

But in the last year, a small number of European carriers have come to a radical conclusion: Let’s do more than just enable mobile banking apps; let’s build our own.

Orange has made headlines recently for just this reason. Earlier this year, it moved to acquire Groupama Banque, enabling it to leverage its banking license and benefit from its existing client network, thereby creating its own banking operation. Now, authorities in France and Europe have approved the deal.

Groupama Banque is currently owned by insurance firm Groupama. When the deal is completed, Orange will own 65 percent of it. Thus, the telco will be able to launch Orange Bank in France in January 2017, with Spain and Belgium to follow.

Actually, Orange already has some experience in the area. In October 2014, it launched Orange Finanse as a joint venture between mBank and Orange Polska. It’s not alone. O2 Germany launched a bank with Fidor in July, while Telenor is two years into its Banka Serbia launch.

Other operators are experimenting. Telefonica Spain announced a joint venture with CaixaBank and Santander, while in the US, T-Mobile launched a Visa card with banking features linked to a smartphone app (though it is now being wound down).

Needless to say, financial services are nothing new for mobile operators. In developing markets, they have launched text-based mobile money systems that have transformed the lives of millions. Vodafone’s M-Pesa has 25 million customers and 261,000 agents in 11 countries.

Meanwhile Orange has its own Orange Money service, which launched in Ivory Coast in 2008 and has 18 million customers in 14 countries across Africa.

In mature markets, the emphasis has been on NFC payments. The typical model was a contactless wallet app, with account credentials stored in the secure element of a SIM card. There were numerous launches — Softcard (US), Valyou (Norway), Buyster (France), SixPack (Denmark), and so on. Most have closed.

So why would operators switch focus to banking? The simple reason is that they believe they can build new and intuitive products. Why? Because they are mobile-first.

The theory goes that banks have a tendency to approach new mobile services by layering them on top of legacy IT systems. By contrast, operators should have the know-how to build much better mobile experiences that are consumer centric.

So O2 Banking customers can, for example, sign up via a video chat session with an agent. They can have a current account with a free MasterCard inside five minutes. They can also earn rewards of mobile data rather than pennies of interest.

Telenor Banka in Serbia launched in September 2014. It carefully targeted “premium” tech-savvy customers and cultivated them as brand ambassadors and to quickly spread the word on social media. By summer 2016, the bank had 180,000 customers (the biggest traditional bank in the country has 500,000 mobile users).

The Telenor Banka app was built around specific “pain points” such as currency transfer. In Serbia, people like to transfer their dinars for euros. Typically, they queue to do so with an agent, then queue again at the bank to deposit the cash back into their accounts. Telenor Banka lets them do the same in two clicks inside the app.

Users can also activate and deactivate their cards from inside the app. This helps people combat online fraud as they can “turn off” their cards apart from when they are actually making a payment.

All these launches are indicative of a dynamic moment in banking. Technology is making it easier for digital-only challenger banks (including mobile operators) to launch rival products. Regulation is helping too. The EU Payment Services Directive 2, coming into force in 2018, mandates that banks must open up APIs so that third parties (with user permission) can have access to account information.

In its Essentials 2020 review, Orange set a target of making €400 million ($435 million) from financial services by 2018. This compares to overall group revenues at Orange of €10.3 billion ($11.2 billion) in the third quarter of 2015 alone.

This is ushering in the idea of “banking as a marketplace,” which operators are keen to leverage. Here, banking apps offer account services but also act as a mini mall in which users can “shop” for foreign exchange, insurance, loans, and so on from specialists.

For telcos, it’s an opportunity to experiment with new customer centric business models while delivering CRM and achieving churn reduction. For banks and other key players in financial services, it’s a call to action to leverage their own assets in a way that creates value for the discerning mobile consumer.

What mobile carriers do next: Become banks

six key behaviors that bold leaders regularly demonstrate

In times of uncertainty, the human instinct often leads us to use solutions that are safe and tested rather than stepping into the unknown.

As such, many leaders find themselves reacting to uncertain economic forecasts by cutting back rather than proactively investing.

It is precisely in times of uncertainty that organizations need bold leaders to align investments, source top talent, and foster innovation in order to gain a competitive edge.

Findings from the 2016 Deloitte Business Confidence Report show that more than half of all surveyed CXOs (C-suite) and CXO successors (CXOWs) believe they do not have the bold leadership they need at the highest levels of their organization.

The report, based on data from hundreds of cross-industry leaders, identifies six key behaviors that bold leaders regularly demonstrate.

Bold leaders regularly:

1. Set ambitious goals

Bold leaders demonstrate a relentless desire to excel and are able to create environments that stretch people to go above and beyond their natural limits. While adopting a more conservative approach for the overall business may be a smart play during periods of uncertainty, maintaining aspirational goals in those high-priority business areas can help sustain increased effort and motivation.

For example, during the 1980s, product delays and challenges in memory production led to a period of significant financial strain at Intel. During this time, the company implemented what they described as „the 10% solution,“ a request that their employees provide 10% greater effort despite 10% cuts to their paycheck.

While this was clearly a tough ask, most team members rose to the occasion, investing additional time on the products and pursuits that formed the backbone of the company’s success, leading them out of the woods.

2. Propose ideas their company might consider controversial

Widespread change simply cannot occur without challenging the status quo. Bold leaders do not let initial resistance prevent them from pursuing new ideas and pushing for needed change. However, less than half of CXOs and CXO successors reported proposing controversial ideas in their own organization. While groupthink (excessive focus on consensus) is problematic in any business, it can be particularly crippling during periods of unease, as it may give competitors a chance to step in and gain market share.

Founded in Wales the early 1950s, Laura Ashley’s clothing conjured up images of tea time in the English countryside. Founders Laura and Bernard Ashley maintained tight control over the business as it grew from a single shop to 500 stores worldwide. After Laura’s death in 1985, Bernard worked to keep her legacy alive, as Harvard Business Review reported.

However, times had changed, as had fashion. Women were entering the workforce in significant numbers and wanted practical, professional attire, and competitors were offshoring production to reduce labor costs. The company hired a consultant to update the brand and instituted a variety of cost-cutting activities, however, the 11 CEOs who took the reins over the next 15 years were slow to challenge the company’s beholden practices.

In the late 2000s, the company changed course to focus on furniture and housewares. This bold change invigorated a stalling business and serves as reminder that a willingness to challenge existing practices can determine a company’s survival over time.

3. Invite feedback from colleagues at all levels of seniority

Creating sustained improvements involves solutions that serve everyone’s interests. While quick action and decisiveness are often associated with bold leadership, these traits can isolate leaders and alienate their people. The most effective leaders seek feedback in a proactive and iterative fashion, incorporating the ideas they receive into synergistic solutions, paying attention to feedback that comes from both junior and senior colleagues.

When Alan Mulally took over as president and CEO of Ford Motor Company in 2006, he faced a tough reality. Ford was facing lost market share and serious production problems. In an effort to address these problems head on, Mulally began encouraging his team members to speak up about challenges early and often, rather than waiting to see if they could fix them alone. The leadership team, filled with independent and highly competent individuals used to managing their own operations, was initially slow to respond to these requests.

As they made the transition, Mulally served as an energizing and positive force, and when the team began respond, he was quick to praise their honesty and offer help, rather than assigning blame. By breaking the classically stoic leadership mold and inviting open communication from his team, Mulally was able to proactively overhaul Ford during the 2008-2009 recession and avoid the direct government intervention imposed on so many of their competitors.

4. Innovate and look for new ways of doing things

For bold leaders, the opportunity to drive improvements outweighs the fear of failure. They tend to remain open to a wide range of possibilities, constantly experimenting and never allowing themselves to be completely satisfied with the current approach. While nearly 60% of CXOs and CXOWs surveyed report that they look for new ways of doing things on a regular basis, fewer than 46% of CXOs and CXOWs said they propose ideas the company might consider controversial.

Ed Catmull, the cofounder and president of Pixar, is well known for embracing an experimental approach to his work. He freely acknowledges that all Pixar movies „suck“ when they are first conceptualized, and that is only through thousands of storyboards that the final product starts to come to shape.

Throughout the design process, Pixar employees are constantly experimenting with new approaches to get the designs right, often scrapping years of work if a vision doesn’t come together as effectively as expected. This is best embodied by John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, who says, „we don’t actually finish out films, we just release them.“

5. Take risks

A willingness to step forward in the face of ambiguity enables bold leaders to respond quickly to new trends and proactively redefine the market. With only 34% of respondents in the Deloitte survey reporting that they take risks, this is clearly a concept that is easy to understand but hard to put into practice. Leaders who find ways to take risks while considering the importance of context find themselves on the cutting edge and hone their ability to develop a competitive advantage over their more cautious peers.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s charismatic and challenging leader is famous for setting a punishing standard for his teams, and has created an environment in which risk is encouraged in the pursuit of improved performance. Stephenie Landry, an operations executive, became a famous example of this after proposing an idea to ship items to urban customers in an hour or less. Less than four months later, this previously mid-level manager launched Prime Now, a service which is pushing the envelope in the industry for delivery speed.

6. Build strong teams and empower them to success

While many leaders focus on innovating their products and services, they often forget that the ideas for these innovations come from their team members. Additionally, leaders are often fearful of a looming brain drain, expecting their top talent to flee for more innovative, technology-savvy companies.

An eyebrow-raising 63% of CXOs and 80% of CXOWs surveyed feel that 1 in 3 or more of their best managers will leave before joining the senior ranks. Bold leaders appreciate that employees need ample opportunity to practice and experiment if they are going to excel. As a result, they think carefully about their team composition, the conditions that foster growth, and how to provide support in the form of both mentorship and sponsorship.

Leaders who provide a solid base of support and an opportunity for challenge aid their organizations in the ongoing war for talent. In addition, the increased loyalty they foster often leads to retention and in turn, attracts other top talent.

One of the greatest challenges facing companies today is the fact that physical separation and heavy reliance on e-mail communication can undermine effective team dynamics. To improve team harmony and prevent frustrations that can lead to a staff exodus, Dharmendra Modha at IBM developed a detailed contract for each product describing each team’s responsibilities and identifying how the product would work in conjunction with products from other teams.

As a result, each team member feels they are working towards a common purpose. In addition, if groups propose different approaches to solving a problem, he divides the team and has them each pursue their idea. Objective testing identifies the best solution and encourages staff to experiment with the approach they think will work best rather than succumbing to groupthink.

In reading these stories, it would be easy to equate bold leadership with courage — attributing it to personality or temperament. This is particularly true in times of uncertainty, where being bold feels exponentially riskier, but this framing doesn’t tell the most important part of the story.

While some of the elements listed above may come naturally, those that don’t can be developed by understanding and incorporating what the most effective leaders focus on into your own decision-making process. Effective leaders are not great because they are willing to jump blindly or rashly into the unknown, but because they know how to think through complex challenges and know specifically what to think about.

This approach involves an ability to quickly identify the most relevant variables in any situation and prioritize action. Combine this knowledge with a willingness to experiment and a high standard for success and you have a leader who can confidently launch new products and services and adjust people processes in the face of uncertainty.

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/a-deloitte-exec-explains-6-things-the-boldest-leaders-do-2016-10?r=US&IR=T

MIT’s Moral Machine

It might save your life: MIT’s Moral Machine asks you to answer moral dilemmas

 

We humans err and err often. If it is not a small mistake like leaving the keys in the fridge, then it is a deadly one like leaving the oven on all day. We tend to be reckless, forgetful, overconfident, easily distracted — dangerous traits when steering a two-ton, metal machine across lanes at 70 mph. Four out of the top five causes for car crashes are the result of human error.

Computers, on the other hand, have purely pragmatic minds. They sense data and react in programmed, calculated ways. Self-driving cars already seem to be safer than humans behind the wheel. The rate of progress in artificial intelligence over the past few years has some experts claiming that driving a car will be made illegal by 2030.

“Machine intelligence may have to deal with situations where someone has to die so someone else can live.”

But, as most drivers know, driving can require split-second decisions with no obvious right answer. A squirrel darts into the road — do you swerve and risk hitting other cars or drive straight and hope the squirrel survives. How would you react if a dog ran into the road? Or a criminal? Or a child? Which lives are worth risking? These questions are being asked by teams of researchers around the world. Now they are looking to you for answers.

“Self-driving cars are now practically inevitable,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student and research assistant Sohan Dsouza told Digital Trends. “That is a good thing, generally, because they would help save countless lives now being lost daily due to human driver error and can offer independent mobility to countless others who cannot drive.”

To that end, Dsouza, Edmond Awad, and their team at the MIT Media Lab developed Moral Machine, a platform that engages users in moral dilemmas and asks them how the self-driving car should respond. A handful of factors play into each scenario, including the age and gender of victims, their social status, and whether they are breaking the law. Participants are asked to make decisions in 13 dilemmas. The results then pooled as crowdsourced data and may one day be used to guide the development of ethical machines. After judging the dilemmas, users can compare their outcomes to others’ and even design their own for others to answer.

“One of our primary goals is provoking debate among the public,” Dsouza said, “and especially dialogue among users, manufacturers, insurers, and transport authorities.

“Not all crashes can be avoided, and the possibility remains that machine intelligence piloting vehicles may have to deal with situations where someone has to die so someone else can live — rather like the classic philosophical thought experiment known as the trolley problem.”

The trolley problem has been pondered for nearly 50 years. In it, a train car is en route to hit five people down the track. You have a switch that can steer the trolley down another set of tracks, where it will hit only one person. Would you intervene or do nothing?

“There are very few experiment-based studies regarding this possibility,” Dsouza said. “Hence, we needed to create a platform that would be able to generate large numbers of multi-factor scenarios and present them to users in an easy-to-understand, easy-to-use, and engaging way, so as to build a model of how people perceive the morality of machine-made decisions.”

“One of our primary goals is provoking debate among the public.”

Moral Machine has gathered answers on more than 11 million scenarios so far. Although the team has yet to perform a deep analysis, they are noticing regional trends that hint at the rocky road ahead. “On average, respondents from western countries place a relatively higher value on minimizing the number of overall casualties — that is, they approve more utilitarian choices — compared to respondents from eastern countries,” Dsouza said.

Revealing these cultural discrepancies fosters debate and dialogue, which is essential to making progress. “We believe we have already made an impact,” Dsouza said. “This dialogue will eventually help the stakeholders in this scene reach an equilibrium of legislation, liability assessment, moral comfort, and public safety.”

http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/mit-moral-machine/

Web 3.0 A decentralized web would give power back to the people online

Recently, Google launched a video calling tool (yes, another one). Google Hangouts has been sidelined to Enterprise, and Google Duo is supposed to be the next big thing in video calling.

So now we have Skype from Microsoft, Facetime from Apple, and Google with Duo. Each big company has its own equivalent service, each stuck in its own bubble. These services may be great, but they aren’t exactly what we imagined during the dream years when the internet was being built.

The original purpose of the web and internet, if you recall, was to build a common neutral network which everyone can participate in equally for the betterment of humanity. Fortunately, there is an emerging movement to bring the web back to this vision and it even involves some of the key figures from the birth of the web. It’s called the Decentralised Web or Web 3.0, and it describes an emerging trend to build services on the internet which do not depend on any single “central” organisation to function.

So what happened to the initial dream of the web? Much of the altruism faded during the first dot-com bubble, as people realised that an easy way to create value on top of this neutral fabric was to build centralised services which gather, trap and monetise information.

Search Engines (e.g. Google), Social Networks (e.g. Facebook), Chat Apps (e.g. WhatsApp) have grown huge by providing centralised services on the internet. For example, Facebook’s future vision of the internet is to provide access only to the subset of centralised services it endorses (Internet.org and Free Basics).

Meanwhile, it disables fundamental internet freedoms such as the ability to link to content via a URL (forcing you to share content only within Facebook) or the ability for search engines to index its contents (other than the Facebook search function).

paltalk-tinychat

The Decentralised Web envisions a future world where services such as communication, currency, publishing, social networking, search, archiving etc are provided not by centralised services owned by single organisations, but by technologies which are powered by the people: their own community. Their users.

The core idea of decentralisation is that the operation of a service is not blindly trusted to any single omnipotent company. Instead, responsibility for the service is shared: perhaps by running across multiple federated servers, or perhaps running across client side apps in an entirely “distributed” peer-to-peer model.

Even though the community may be “byzantine” and not have any reason to trust or depend on each other, the rules that describe the decentralised service’s behaviour are designed to force participants to act fairly in order to participate at all, relying heavily on cryptographic techniques such as Merkle trees and digital signatures to allow participants to hold each other accountable.

There are three fundamental areas that the Decentralised Web necessarily champions:privacy, data portability and security.

  • Privacy: Decentralisation forces an increased focus on data privacy. Data is distributed across the network and end-to-end encryption technologies are critical for ensuring that only authorized users can read and write. Access to the data itself is entirely controlled algorithmically by the network as opposed to more centralized networks where typically the owner of that network has full access to data, facilitating  customer profiling and ad targeting.
  • Data Portability: In a decentralized environment, users own their data and choose with whom they share this data. Moreover they retain control of it when they leave a given service provider (assuming the service even has the concept of service providers). This is important. If I want to move from General Motors to BMW today, why should I not be able to take my driving records with me? The same applies to chat platform history or health records.
  • Security: Finally, we live in a world of increased security threats. In a centralized environment, the bigger the silo, the bigger the honeypot is to attract bad actors. Decentralized environments are safer by their general nature against being hacked, infiltrated, acquired, bankrupted or otherwise compromised as they have been built to exist under public scrutiny from the outset.

 

Just as the internet itself triggered a grand re-levelling, taking many disparate unconnected local area networks and providing a new neutral common ground that linked them all, now we see the same pattern happening again as technology emerges to provide a new neutral common ground for higher level services. And much like Web 2.0, the first wave of this Web 3.0 invasion has walked among us for several years already.

Git is wildly successful as an entirely decentralised version control system – almost entirely replacing centralised systems such as Subversion. Bitcoin famously demonstrates how a currency can exist without any central authority, contrasting with a centralised incumbent such as Paypal. Diaspora aims to provide a decentralised alternative to Facebook. Freenet paved the way for decentralised websites, email and file sharing.

Less famously, StatusNet (now called GNU Social) provides a decentralised alternative to Twitter. XMPP was built to provide a decentralised alternative to the messaging silos of AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, MSN, and others.

Telephone switchboard operators circa 1914. Photo courtesy Flickr and reynermedia.

Telephone switchboard operators circa 1914. Photo courtesy Flickr and reynermedia.

However, these technologies have always sat on the fringe — favourites for the geeks who dreamt them up and are willing to forgive their mass market shortcomings, but frustratingly far from being mainstream. The tide is turning . The public zeitgeist is finally catching up with the realisation that being entirely dependent on massive siloed community platforms is not entirely in the users’ best interests.

Critically, there is a new generation of Decentralised Startups that have got the attention of the mainstream industry, heralding in the new age for real.

Blockstack and Ethereum show how Blockchain can be so much more than just a cryptocurrency, acting as a general purpose set of building blocks for building decentralised systems that need strong consensus. IPFS and the Dat Project provide entirely decentralised data fabrics, where ownership and responsibility for data is shared by all those accessing it rather than ever being hosted in a single location.

The real step change in the current momentum came in June at the Decentralised Web Summit organised by the Internet Archive. The event brought together many of the original “fathers of the internet and World Wide Web” to discuss ways to “Lock the web open” and reinvent a web “that is more reliable, private, and fun.”

Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, saw first hand the acceleration in decentralisation technologies whilst considering how to migrate the centralised Internet Archive to instead be decentralised: operated and hosted by the community who uses it rather being a fragile and vulnerable single service.

Additionally, the enthusiastic presence of Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Brewster himself and many others of the old school of the internet at the summit showed that for the first time the shift to decentralisation had caught the attention and indeed endorsement of the establishment.

Tim Berners-Lee said:

The web was designed to be decentralised so that everybody could participate by having their own domain and having their own webserver and this hasn’t worked out. Instead, we’ve got the situation where individual personal data has been locked up in these silos. […] The proposal is, then, to bring back the idea of a decentralised web.

To bring back power to people. We are thinking we are going to make a social revolution by just tweaking: we’re going to use web technology, but we’re going to use it in such a way that we separate the apps that you use from the data that you use.

We now see the challenge is to mature these new technologies and bring them fully to the mass market. Commercially there is huge value to be had in decentralisation: whilst the current silos may be washed away, new ones will always appear on top of the new common ground, just as happened with the original Web.

Github is the posterchild for this: a $2 billion company built entirely as a value-added service on top of the decentralised technology of Git — despite users being able to trivially take their data and leave at any point.

 Similarly, we expect to see the new wave of companies providing decentralised infrastructure and commercially viable services on top, as new opportunities emerge in this brave new world.

Ultimately, it’s hard to predict what final direction Web 3.0 will take us, and that’s precisely the point. By unlocking the web from the hands of a few players this will inevitably enable a surge in innovation and let services flourish which prioritise the user’s interests.

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others have their own interests at heart (as they should), but that means that the user can often be viewed purely as a source of revenue, quite literally at the users’ expense.

As the Decentralised Web attracts the interest and passion of the mainstream developer community, there is no telling what new economies will emerge and what kinds of new technologies and services they will invent. The one certainty is they will intrinsically support their communities and user bases just as much as the interests of their creators.

A decentralized web would give power back to the people online

Google Hits a Samsung Roadblock With New AI Assistant – Viv & Adam Cheyer

Google just debuted a digital assistant, which it hopes to place inside smartphones, watches, cars and every other imaginable internet-connected device. It’s already hit a snag.

The Alphabet division launched new smartphones last week with the artificially intelligent assistant deeply embedded. It also rolled out a speaker with the feature at its core and announced plans to let other companies tie their apps and services to the assistant.

A day later, Samsung, which just announced it was ending production of its problematic Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, said it was acquiring Viv Labs, a startup building its own AI voice-based assistant.

At first, the deal looked like a counter-punch to Samsung rival Apple — Viv is run by the creators of Apple’s Siri assistant. But buying Viv may be more of a problem for Google, because Samsung is the biggest maker of phones running Google’s Android mobile operating system.

Google strategy is now centered on the assistant, rather than its search engine, because it’s a more natural way for people to interact with smartphones and other connected devices. Getting all Android phone makers to put the Google assistant on their devices would get the technology into millions of hands quickly. But Samsung’s Viv deal suggests assistants are too important for phone makers to let other companies supply this feature.

Last week, despite the Note 7 crisis, Samsung executive Injong Rhee said the company plans to put Viv’s technology in its smartphones next year and then embed it into other electronics and home appliances. A Samsung representative and a Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

That’s a necessity for Samsung, according to some analysts and industry insiders.

„As AI is becoming more sophisticated and valuable to the consumer, there’s no question it will be important for hardware companies,“ said Kirt McMaster, executive chairman of Cyanogen, a startup that makes Android software. Mr. McMaster, a frequent Google critic, said other Android handset makers will likely follow Samsung’s move.

„If you don’t have an AI asset, you’re not going to have a brain,“ he added.

Google may already have known that some Android phone makers — known as original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs — were reluctant to embrace its assistant.

„Other OEMs may want to differentiate“ Google’s Android chief Hiroshi Lockheimer told Bloomberg before it released its own smartphones. „They may want to do their own thing — their own assistant, for example.“

Samsung and Google have sparred in the past over distribution. Google requires Android handset makers to pre-install 11 apps, yet Samsung often puts its own services on its phones. And the South Korean company has released devices that run on its own operating system, called Tizen, not Android.

Viv was frequently on the short-list of startups that could help larger tech companies build assistant technology. Founded four-years ago by Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham, the startup was working on voice technology to handle more complex queries than existing offerings.

While it drummed up considerable attention and investment, Viv has not yet released its product to the public. And some analysts are skeptical of Samsung’s ability to convert the technology into a credible service, given its mixed record with software applications.

„It will be very hard to compete with Google’s strength in data and their AI acquisitions,“ said Jitendra Waral, senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. „Samsung would need to prove that its AI solutions are superior to that of Google’s. They are handicapped in this race.“

Samsung is also focused on handling the fallout from its exploding Galaxy Note 7 phones, potentially taking management time away from its Viv integration.

But it’s a race Samsung has to join. In recent years, Samsung acquired mobile-payments and connected-device startups to keep up with Apple, Google and Amazon. Digital voice-based assistants may be more important, if they become the main way people interact with devices.

Silicon Valley titans are rushing into the space because of this potential. Amazon is trying to sign up developers for its Alexa voice technology. Apple has recently touted more Siri capabilities and opened the technology to other developers. And now Google, considered the leader in artificial intelligence, is making its own push.

„I don’t ever remember a time when every single major consumer tech company — and even enterprise companies — have been singularly focused on an identical strategy,“ said Tim Tuttle, chief executive officer of MindMeld Inc., a startup working on voice interaction software. „They’re all following the exact same playbook.“

 

http://adage.com/article/digital/google-hits-a-roadblock-ai-assistant/306244/

Google hired writers from Pixar and The Onion to make Assistant more personable

Google wants its Assistant to be more than just an order-taking robot — so it hired some clever writers from outside the company to help make it happen.

A new story from the Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims details the advancements of different artificial intelligence devices like Amazon Echo and Google’s rival product Home, and how they’re comforting for those who live alone thanks to how personable the AI’s have become.

For Google, that friendly personality is thanks to a team of writers from Pixar and The Onion who helped make the Assistant — which powers Google’s Home device — sound more like a human and less like a robot, according to the Journal. Google’s eventual goal is to help users build an emotional connection with the Assistant, the Journal reports.

Google unveiled its Assistant-enabled Home device last week, a direct competitor to other AI-powered hardware devices like Amazon’s Echo. The Assistant itself is similar to Alexa, which powers the Echo: It has voice-recognition software, natural language recognition, and it gets smarter over time.

You can ask the Assistant to tell you a joke, give you the weather or set a timer, but you can also ask it to do things like remember your favorite sports team or the city you live in. Much like other AI — like Alexa or Apple’s Siri — the Assistant can be equal parts sweet and sassy, which is what helps it seem more relatable and more human. The Assistant lives inside Google Home, but it’s also enabled in Google’s new messaging app, Allo and its new Pixel smartphone.

 

http://www.businessinsider.de/google-assistant-pixar-the-onion-2016-10

Audi R10 V10 is a supercar for everyday life

Audi R8 12 toutHollis Johnson

When the Audi R8 arrived on the world stage in 2007, the German supercar took the automotive world by storm. In short time, the stylish Audi became not just one of the most sought-after machines in the world, but also a pop-culture icon. („Iron Man,“ anybody?)But after a decade of excellence, it was time for a successor.

How do you improve upon an icon? We’ve all heard of the sophomore slump or the disappointing sequel. After all, disasters such as „Jaws 2“ or „Speed 2“ happen way more often than an „Empire Strikes Back“ or a „Dark Knight.“

With the R8, Audi had the tall task of coming up with a sequel to its flagship model. After all, this is Tony Stark’s official ride.

For 2017, there is indeed an all-new, second-generation R8. Recently, Audi dropped off this R8 V10 Coupe Quattro S tronic for Business Insider to check out. Our ibis-white R8 V10 had a base price of $162,900, but with options the car left the showroom at $183,050.

So does the sequel live up to the hype? Let’s find out.

Photos by Hollis Johnson unless otherwise credited.

 

Our stunning ibis-white test car is the latest car to carry the R8 badge. But it certainly wasn’t the first.

Our stunning ibis-white test car is the latest car to carry the R8 badge. But it certainly wasn't the first.

Hollis Johnson

The R8 road car we know today is named after Audi’s all-conquering R8 Le Mans Prototype race cars. In 1999, Audi debuted the open cockpit R8R …

The R8 road car we know today is named after Audi's all-conquering R8 Le Mans Prototype race cars. In 1999, Audi debuted the open cockpit R8R ...

Audi

… and the closed cockpit R8C race cars. In its first time out, at the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, the R8Rs finished third and fourth. Unfortunately, neither of the R8Cs made it to the finish.

... and the closed cockpit R8C race cars. In its first time out, at the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, the R8Rs finished third and fourth. Unfortunately, neither of the R8Cs made it to the finish.

Audi

In 2000, Audi returned with the R8 LMP.

In 2000, Audi returned with the R8 LMP.

AP

From 2000 until it was replaced in 2006, the R8 LMP racked up an astonishing 63 victories in 79 races.

From 2000 until it was replaced in 2006, the R8 LMP racked up an astonishing 63 victories in 79 races.

REUTERS

This includes five outright victories at Le Mans in six years. Its only loss at Le Mans came at the hands of VW Group stablemate Bentley’s Speed 8. And even then, the Speed 8 that won can actually trace its roots back to the Audi R8C.

This includes five outright victories at Le Mans in six years. Its only loss at Le Mans came at the hands of VW Group stablemate Bentley's Speed 8. And even then, the Speed 8 that won can actually trace its roots back to the Audi R8C.

Audi

With this level of success. Audi was keen to provide its rivals with a lasting reminder of its prowess.

With this level of success. Audi was keen to provide its rivals with a lasting reminder of its prowess.

Audi

The result was the R8 — Audi’s first legitimate supercar. It arrived in 2007 with a 4.2-liter, 420-horsepower V8 and a 185-mph top speed.

The result was the R8 — Audi's first legitimate supercar. It arrived in 2007 with a 4.2-liter, 420-horsepower V8 and a 185-mph top speed.

Audi

Although the R8 immediately became infinitely cool and built a reputation for being great to drive and easy to live with, critics also felt the V8 lacked muscle compared with other supercars of its day.

Although the R8 immediately became infinitely cool and built a reputation for being great to drive and easy to live with, critics also felt the V8 lacked muscle compared with other supercars of its day.

Audi

That all changed with the arrival of a 525-horsepower, 5.2-liter V10 borrowed from the Lamborghini Gallardo. Now the R8 had the face-melting speed to go along with the looks.

That all changed with the arrival of a 525-horsepower, 5.2-liter V10 borrowed from the Lamborghini Gallardo. Now the R8 had the face-melting speed to go along with the looks.

Audi

For 2017, there’s a new second-generation version of the Audi supercar. It’s available in two different flavors:

For 2017, there's a new second-generation version of the Audi supercar. It's available in two different flavors:

Hollis Johnson

The hardcore R8 V10 Plus …

The hardcore R8 V10 Plus ...

Hollis Johnson

… and the tamer — but still very capable — R8 V10. Our test car was an R8 V10.

... and the tamer — but still very capable — R8 V10. Our test car was an R8 V10.

Hollis Johnson

Aesthetically, the exterior of the new R8 is an evolution of the first-generation car. The design has aged rather gracefully. After all, you don’t fix what isn’t broken.

Aesthetically, the exterior of the new R8 is an evolution of the first-generation car. The design has aged rather gracefully. After all, you don't fix what isn't broken.

Hollis Johnson

Up front, Audi’s domineering front grille makes its presence felt. Whether this new grille is an improvement over the outgoing model is in the eye of beholder.

Up front, Audi's domineering front grille makes its presence felt. Whether this new grille is an improvement over the outgoing model is in the eye of beholder.

Hollis Johnson

However, the LED headlights look terrific.

However, the LED headlights look terrific.

Hollis Johnson

On the flanks, Audi changed one of the previous-gen car’s signature features by splitting the R8’s carbon-fiber blade into two — a potentially controversial move that some will applaud while others will lament.

On the flanks, Audi changed one of the previous-gen car's signature features by splitting the R8's carbon-fiber blade into two — a potentially controversial move that some will applaud while others will lament.

Hollis Johnson

The R8’s gas cap is still located on the top portion of the carbon-fiber blade.

The R8's gas cap is still located on the top portion of the carbon-fiber blade.

Hollis Johnson

The rear of the V10 gets an adjustable spoiler, which extends at 75 mph, while the V10 Plus gets a larger unit that’s permanently bolted to the rear deck lid.

The rear of the V10 gets an adjustable spoiler, which extends at 75 mph, while the V10 Plus gets a larger unit that's permanently bolted to the rear deck lid.

Hollis Johnson

Although many of the car’s fans may prefer the aggressive front-end design …

Although many of the car's fans may prefer the aggressive front-end design ...

Hollis Johnson

… I find the rear three-quarter view to be the car’s most appealing.

... I find the rear three-quarter view to be the car's most appealing.

Hollis Johnson

Step inside and you’ll find the most impressive part of the R8.

Step inside and you'll find the most impressive part of the R8.

Hollis Johnson

Although the first-generation R8’s exterior design aged well, its interior has not. For the all-new 2017 R8, Audi has completely revamped the cabin. The result is one of the finest in any supercar. It’s covered in rich nappa leather and alcantara.

Although the first-generation R8's exterior design aged well, its interior has not. For the all-new 2017 R8, Audi has completely revamped the cabin. The result is one of the finest in any supercar. It's covered in rich nappa leather and alcantara.

Hollis Johnson

Every aspect of this cockpit is focused on the driver.

Every aspect of this cockpit is focused on the driver.

Hollis Johnson

As you can see, there isn’t much for the passenger to do.

As you can see, there isn't much for the passenger to do.

Hollis Johnson

What would normally be found on the center stack …

What would normally be found on the center stack ...

Hollis Johnson

… has been relocated to the steering wheel.

... has been relocated to the steering wheel.

Hollis Johnson

The start-stop and drive-select buttons are kinda hard to miss.

The start-stop and drive-select buttons are kinda hard to miss.

Hollis Johnson

What makes the R8 really stand out is the inclusion of Audi’s new Virtual Cockpit system. Instead of a traditional gauge cluster and infotainment screen, Virtual Cockpit integrates the two in a single 12.3-inch, high-definition display.

What makes the R8 really stand out is the inclusion of Audi's new Virtual Cockpit system. Instead of a traditional gauge cluster and infotainment screen, Virtual Cockpit integrates the two in a single 12.3-inch, high-definition display.

Hollis Johnson

Everything the driver needs to control the car’s many features can be accessed through Virtual Cockpit.

Everything the driver needs to control the car's many features can be accessed through Virtual Cockpit.

Hollis Johnson

This includes the car’s superb 12-speaker, 550-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo.

This includes the car's superb 12-speaker, 550-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo.

Hollis Johnson

The most incredible function the system offers is a full-screen map that’s unlike anything offered by other brands.

The most incredible function the system offers is a full-screen map that's unlike anything offered by other brands.

Hollis Johnson

The Virtual Cockpit is a fairly risky move for Audi. The company’s infotainment system is one of the — if not the — best in the business right now. And to make such a drastic change could have been a disaster. Fortunately for Audi, Virtual Cockpit is intuitively organized, very easy to use, and beautifully presented.

The Virtual Cockpit is a fairly risky move for Audi. The company's infotainment system is one of the — if not the — best in the business right now. And to make such a drastic change could have been a disaster. Fortunately for Audi, Virtual Cockpit is intuitively organized, very easy to use, and beautifully presented.

Hollis Johnson

Virtual Cockpit is controlled either through the traditional rotary controller and script pad, located on the center console …

Virtual Cockpit is controlled either through the traditional rotary controller and script pad, located on the center console ...

Hollis Johnson

… or with steering-wheel-mounted buttons.

... or with steering-wheel-mounted buttons.

Hollis Johnson

The sparse center stack is populated only by the car’s climate controls.

The sparse center stack is populated only by the car's climate controls.

Hollis Johnson

Our R8 test car came equipped with a pair of beautifully quilted nappa leather seats. Unlike the seats in many supercars, the R8’s 18-way adjustable seats are not only supportive, but also comfortable.

Our R8 test car came equipped with a pair of beautifully quilted nappa leather seats. Unlike the seats in many supercars, the R8's 18-way adjustable seats are not only supportive, but also comfortable.

Hollis Johnson

The R8’s center armrest doubles as …

The R8's center armrest doubles as ...

Hollis Johnson

… cup holders!

... cup holders!

Hollis Johnson

Behind the driver is the R8’s 5.2-liter V10 engine. The V10, which is shared by the Lamborghini Huracan, is an absolute gem of a motor. It’s docile in normal driving, but capable of becoming a fire-breathing power plant when called upon.

Behind the driver is the R8's 5.2-liter V10 engine. The V10, which is shared by the Lamborghini Huracan, is an absolute gem of a motor. It's docile in normal driving, but capable of becoming a fire-breathing power plant when called upon.

Hollis Johnson

These days, the R8’s V10 is a dying breed. It’s one of the few remaining supercar powerplants to take a pass on turbocharging or hybridization. As a result, the Audi delivers a more connected driving experience. No need to wait for turbos to spool up!

These days, the R8's V10 is a dying breed. It's one of the few remaining supercar powerplants to take a pass on turbocharging or hybridization. As a result, the Audi delivers a more connected driving experience. No need to wait for turbos to spool up!

Hollis Johnson

The R8 V10 Plus gets a 610-horsepower version of the engine.

The R8 V10 Plus gets a 610-horsepower version of the engine.

Hollis Johnson

The R8 V10, our test car, came with a detuned 540-horsepower variant.

The R8 V10, our test car, came with a detuned 540-horsepower variant.

Hollis Johnson

According to Audi, the 540-horsepower R8 V10 is capable of making the run to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and can reach a top speed of 199 mph.

According to Audi, the 540-horsepower R8 V10 is capable of making the run to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and can reach a top speed of 199 mph.

Hollis Johnson

The more powerful V10 Plus speeds up the process with a claimed 0-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph.

The more powerful V10 Plus speeds up the process with a claimed 0-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph.

Hollis Johnson

All R8s get Audi’s highly capable seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Our V10 test car handled the engine’s prodigious power with ease. The shifts were smooth and immediate in every situation we encountered during our few days with the car.

All R8s get Audi's highly capable seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Our V10 test car handled the engine's prodigious power with ease. The shifts were smooth and immediate in every situation we encountered during our few days with the car.

Hollis Johnson

Stopping power comes courtesy of these ventilated wave-design disc brakes.

Stopping power comes courtesy of these ventilated wave-design disc brakes.

Hollis Johnson

The R8 is incredibly smooth, steady, and easygoing. It’s very difficult to the push the car beyond its capabilities. The combination of quattro all-wheel-drive and active aerodynamics gives the car endless traction. The V10 offers instant power to get you out of trouble.

The R8 is incredibly smooth, steady, and easygoing. It's very difficult to the push the car beyond its capabilities. The combination of quattro all-wheel-drive and active aerodynamics gives the car endless traction. The V10 offers instant power to get you out of trouble.

Hollis Johnson

Alas, here lies our only issue with the R8 V10: While there’s no doubting its capabilities and competence on both road and track, the R8’s easygoing driving experience lacks the excitement and insanity one might hope for in a supercar.

Alas, here lies our only issue with the R8 V10: While there's no doubting its capabilities and competence on both road and track, the R8's easygoing driving experience lacks the excitement and insanity one might hope for in a supercar.

Hollis Johnson

In fact, you can say that this car offers a very similar experience to other high-performance Audis such as the RS7 and the RS5. This sentence serves both as praise and criticism because the R8 V10’s relaxed nature offers buyers a relatively worry-free ownership experience. On the other hand, this clinical efficiency detracts from the car’s charisma and charm. The driving experience simply doesn’t feed your soul the way other supercars can.

In fact, you can say that this car offers a very similar experience to other high-performance Audis such as the RS7 and the RS5. This sentence serves both as praise and criticism because the R8 V10's relaxed nature offers buyers a relatively worry-free ownership experience. On the other hand, this clinical efficiency detracts from the car's charisma and charm. The driving experience simply doesn't feed your soul the way other supercars can.

Hollis Johnson

In other words, the R8 V10 is the car choice should you want to tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans in style and comfort, but not if your goal is attention.

In other words, the R8 V10 is the car choice should you want to tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans in style and comfort, but not if your goal is attention.

Hollis Johnson

More times than not, the purchase of a supercar is an emotional buy and not a rational one. Supercars are generally useless in most daily situations and can be a great hassle to live with. The R8 isn’t. It’s one of the few cars of this genre that can be rationally justified.

More times than not, the purchase of a supercar is an emotional buy and not a rational one. Supercars are generally useless in most daily situations and can be a great hassle to live with. The R8 isn't. It's one of the few cars of this genre that can be rationally justified.

Hollis Johnson

Overall, the 2017 Audi R8 V10 is a worthy sequel to one of the most iconic cars in recent memory. Its combination of exotic looks, high performance, and day-to-day usability makes this a supercar you can live with.

Overall, the 2017 Audi R8 V10 is a worthy sequel to one of the most iconic cars in recent memory. Its combination of exotic looks, high performance, and day-to-day usability makes this a supercar you can live with.

Hollis Johnson